New country, new language. I am once again in a place where I am a complete foreigner, trying to not look like an idiot speaking a language I barely know. French is beautiful, and I’m committed to learning it, but damn, it’s frustrating. Gendered nouns, for example. Some are self explanatory: le garcon, la fille. Some I’ll just accept: “sandwich” is male, “bottle” is female. But why is “car” feminine but “taxi” masculine? Of course fluent speakers are sadistically happy to inform me of proper m/f conjugation. Like before I can pat my back for remembering the words and pronunciation of “J’ai une chien,” someone will inevitably tell me, “It’s ‘UN,’ the word ‘dog’ is MASCULINE of course, you dumb American. You don’t get points for trying. It’s just how French is.” Great—now is “jerk” masculine or feminine?
These exchanges happen often and people are well intentioned of course, but I’m now compelled to not say anything so you don’t get the pleasure of correcting my grammar. IT’S FINE. I don’t want to tell you how many sisters and dogs and cats I have in French anyway. I’ll just pout and look melancholic and that’ll make me blend in. Until I master French, silence is golden.
Anyway, after a successfully silent purchase at the supermarket cashier, I amble home and I see my neighbor struggling with his keys at the door of my apartment building, holding like four plastic bags of groceries, a baguette and a six pack. No way is he opening the door himself and he clearly needs my help. But shit, he looks like a talker and should buy fewer groceries. My conversational skills are limited to asking for a cup of coffee but I just know he’s going to talk to me. Should I do the decent thing and hold the door open? Or do I do the jackass-foreigner thing and stand idly by and pretend to search for my keys just so I don’t have to converse with him?
I go the non-jackass route and run up to le fella. Damn morals.
Of course he says like A BILLION things to me. This is what I hear: “Ah French! French french la french le french les french un frenchy-french-french.”
I smile the universal “Shit happens” smile.
HA! I know that one…oh wait, I don’t remember how to say “You’re welcome.” Is it de rien? Crap, it’s taking too long to reply and I look like a weirdo. I reflexively go the antisocial route and shrug and run away.
I hit myself later. Why didn’t I just say “Je suis Americain?” That’s stupidity implied.